J: Arthur Jackson
A Real Life Hero
Wrestling Heritage devotes extended tributes to a selection of wrestlers for a variety of reasons. The likes of McManus, Pallo, Nagasaki and Kellett receive Shining Stars tribute due to their status and contribution to the sport; others for the subjective reasoning that they are amongst our favourites, whilst others because they just provide a jolly good story.
Arthur Jackson falls into the latter category. We can't call him a favourite because we didn't see him in the ring; he was by all accounts a very capable wrestler but not one of the famous names remembered by most fans.
But boy did Arthur have a story to tell.
He was a hero. But not heroic in the sense that Big Daddy toppled Haystacks.
Arthur was a real life hero. The sort of hero that saves lives. Not one life, but two. That's a special kind of hero.
Let's begin at the beginning. Arthur was born in Keighley, Yorkshire, on 2nd March, 1927. He grew up in Parkwood Street, Keighley. As was usually the case in those days he didn't have far to go to school, Parkwood School being just down the road. Amongst the 150 pupils in the school was Nora Bancroft. She lived down the same road, but Arthur didn't have a lot to do with her at the time. More of Nora later.
At school Arthur developed an interest in sports, particularly swimming, Keighley Baths were only a mile away; and rugby. Both sports were to play a part in his later life, as was professional wrestling, of course. Arthur played amateur rugby for Keighley Albion, and later went on to coach the club. It was the swimming skills and strength that led to Arthur's heroic acts. Working as a milkman Arthur was delivering his round one morning in 1944 when a commotion drew his attention to the Aireworth Mill Dam. A four year old child had fallen into the water and it was only Arthur's swift response that saved the child from drowning. His bravery was recognised by the Royal Humane Society, a charity that grants awards to those who risk their own life in the saving of others. In addition to the award Arthur was also presented with three guineas, collected by the residents of Aireworth Grove, in recognition of his bravery. Many years later, in his fifties, Arthur was employed as an attendant at Keighley Baths; and it was here that he saved his second life when he rescued another child, consequently receiving a letter of commendation.
Let's get back to Nora. Although she and Arthur had attended the same school Nora was three years younger than Arthur and the two had little to do with each other. That all changed in 1949 when they both went on a coach trip to Blackpool. That was the day they began to get to know each other and ten months later they were married at St Mary's Church. Two years later Nora gave birth to their only son, Barrie.
By this time Arthur had become interested in wrestling, which was rapidly gaining popularity following the end of the Second World War. It couldn't have been easy for Nora or Arthur. He started wrestling professionally in 1952. The earliest match we could uncover was on May 9th, at the Engineers Club Ground, West Hartlepool, opponent John Pollard. A week later he's in Glasgow, beating Tom Robinson, Edinburgh aginst Vince Earnshaw, and before the month was out across the Pennines to wrestle Jim Foy at Belle Vue and back to Glasgow to face Vince Earnshaw again. Les Kellett was a frequent opponent during his first year in the pro ranks, British champion Eric Taylor and tough old timer Jack Atherton were others. Most days Arthur would leave their family home to travel up to two hundred miles to wrestle, arriving back home in the early hours of the morning. In the early 1950s, without a motorway network, young Arthur spent many hours each day travelling from venue to another.
Arthur's niece, Avril, told us of the time her mother had taken her sister and herself to watch Arthur wrestle at Colne Town Hall. Arthur was on the canvas held in a head lock by his opponent when Avril shouted out, "Get off him, he's my uncle Arthur." Both wrestlers heard the cry and started to laugh so much they paused the hostilities.
Light heavyweight Arthur was a regular feature of wrestling bills throughout the 1950s and into the early sixties. He was known as a skilled wrestler who worked within the rules, respected by fans and colleagues. Working mostly in the north of England and Scotland he did travel south and work for Dale Martin Promotions, facing the big names of the 1950s that included Mike Marino, Norman Walsh, Ernie Riley, and Tibor Szakacs.
We believe Arthur was one of the first wrestlers to appear on television. He wrestled on a televised show in June, 1956, against Spencer Churchill at Cheetham, though we cannot be certain his match was broadcast. He was back on the small screeen wrestling Frank O'Donnell at Grantham in April, 1960. There may have been other televised matches, but records are incomplete with the tv magazines not always listing matches.
Many of his bouts were at the St James Hall, Newcastle, and Belle Vue, Manchester, two of the biggest halls in the country at which he was particularly popular. Arthur travelled up and down the country working for Joint Promotions until injury led to premature retirement in 1964.
Arthur Jackson died on 28th February, 2014, just two days short of his 87th birthday. He was survived by his loving wife Nora